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The Environmental Crisis on Native American Lands

by 3 Generations
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The Environmental Crisis on Native American Lands
The Environmental Crisis on Native American Lands
The Environmental Crisis on Native American Lands
The Environmental Crisis on Native American Lands
The Environmental Crisis on Native American Lands
The Environmental Crisis on Native American Lands
The Environmental Crisis on Native American Lands
The Environmental Crisis on Native American Lands
The Environmental Crisis on Native American Lands
The Environmental Crisis on Native American Lands
The Environmental Crisis on Native American Lands

3 Generations has always known that environmental and climate justice cannot happen without including Native voices. While communities of color, especially Native Americans, are disproportionately impacted by environmental degradation and climate change, they are not in positions of power to make decisions about their individual and community well-being. Many large nonprofits and foundations are fighting for conservation at the expense of Indigenous rights and sovereignty.

The environmental justice movement in the United States has always had a problem with diversity. Environmentally focused non-profits continue to be entrenched in whiteness, including their staff and board composition. Also, funders who support the environmental movement in the US still remain overwhelmingly white.

The composition of environmental nonprofits and the individuals within funding institutions has a direct impact on the voices that are heard, or not heard, and the approaches that are taken, or not taken, to advance environmental justice and combat climate change. For Native communities, this means that their traditional ecological knowledge is often dismissed, trivialized, and minimized in environmental discussions. 

This status quo of the environmental and climate justice movements must not continue. Without including Native voices, there can’t be vibrant environmental change in this country.

We will continue to share information about this and many other social justice issues on our social media and website. Thank you for your continued support of our work.

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Missing and Indigenous Women's March
Missing and Indigenous Women's March

Issues of environmental justice and justice for indigenous peoples are not separate, but deeply interconnected. Throughout the history of North American settlement, the territorial dispossession of indigenous peoples has gone hand in hand with natural resource exploitation. Today, from the Bakken formation in North Dakota to theTar Sands in northeastern Alberta, Canada, Indian nations often stand on the front lines of opposition to thepipelines that pump oil out of their communities — violating treaty rights, threatening the environment and contributing to climate change in the process.

The continued history of the mostly violent expulsion of indigenous peoples from their homelands is the root cause of many of the difficulties that they currently face. The poverty, joblessness, poor education and healthcare, and violence against native women and girls all stem from their dispossession of their ancestral homes and their stolen identity as a people. As their lands continue to be taken they face economic hardship from the loss of resources and weakening of their native communities. They also are facing an incredible amount of violence against native women and girls caused by the ever increasing influx of poorly managed extractive workers who temporarily live in “man camps”. Since the latest oil boom in the American midwest,violent crime,sex trafficking, and rape cases have massively increased in the native communities living there. The industry creates a culture of use and abuse- not just the land and it’s resources but it’s people too.

At 3 Generations, we have always aimed to bring world-wide attention to the environmental and cultural crisis of the degradation of Native American lands and the vulnerability of native women and children. We will continue to create films and videos that show the impact and devastation that the federal government and extractive industries cause to native lands and their people.

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Shane Balkowitsch's portrait of Greta Thunberg
Shane Balkowitsch's portrait of Greta Thunberg

Last month a small team from 3 Generations visited North Dakota to get an update on the environmental impact of fracking on Native Lands. Our visit overlapped with that of Greta Thunberg, so there was much focus on her blazing environmental message. We were lucky to get a preview of her glass wet plate portrait, by famed artist Shane Balkowitsch, which is now headed to The Smithsonian Museum. (see photo).

In Bismarck we visited with Dr. Biron Baker, a family medicine physician, who appeared in our award-winning feature film A Different American Dream. Here is his verbatim update on the impact of fossil fuel extraction on health in Western North Dakota:

“In 25 years of practice, I have encountered anecdotal and empirical evidence of a higher than expected incidence of respiratory problems in western North Dakota. Accounting for all other variables, the fossil fuel industry should be explored in more depth. No other industry in our state enjoys the expansive protection that the fossil fuel industry does.  Coal is particularly dirty, and the myth of “clean coal technology” has been perpetuated upon a poorly informed populace.  Natural gas flaring is the next generation’s “clean coal”. 

In New Town, on the Fort Berthold Reservation, Tribal Environmental Director, Edmund Baker shared information about recent oil spills and the role of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) on public health. We were saddened to learn that the environmental damage by the oil and gas exploitation has been even greater than anticipated when we made A Different American Dream.  EPA regulations under the present administration has relaxed rather than increased oversight. Spills are up and consequences are down. 

Anecdotally we learned that some athlete runners on the reservation can no longer run outdoors due to the VOCs from flaring causing asthma in previously healthy individuals. What disturbing news.

And yet, we see hope in the activities and commitment of young people — from Greta Thunberg to the youth on the reservation like Jayli Fimbres (see photo) who are working to preserve their land and culture.

We have been sharing updates on our social media. Please follow these stories on our website, our Facebook pages and on our Instagram.

Thank you for your continued support of this work.

Environmental Director Edmund Baker
Environmental Director Edmund Baker
Jayli Fimbres and Sally White with team 3 G
Jayli Fimbres and Sally White with team 3 G
Dr. Baker at  the North Dakota Veterans Memorial
Dr. Baker at the North Dakota Veterans Memorial


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Iceberg flow in Greenland  -
Iceberg flow in Greenland -

Comprising less than 5% of the world's population, indigenous people protect 80% of global biodiversity. That role has always been very challenging for them because of constant threats to their ancestral territory by large scale development from outside. 3 Generations has long been a champion of indigenous Americans’ attempts to save their land and the future of their society. To that end, we made, and are still distributing the film A Different American Dream, which brought worldwide attention to the degradation of Native American lands due to oil extraction despite tribal resistance to it.

With wildfires burning in the Amazon, Siberia, Greenland, Alaska, Indonesia and the Canary Islands perhaps it’s time to acknowledge the pivotal role that indigenous people and local communities play in biodiversity conservation and climate change resilience. Recent research suggests that securing the land rights of indigenous people and other local communities is a low-cost way to counter global deforestation and climate change.

3 Generations is expanding its focus to all indigenous peoples and their struggle to protect their environments and natural resources. With your support, we will continue to tell the stories of Native Americans and their fight to protect their ancestral lands as we also seek out instances where we can shine a light on the plight of other indigenous people around the world. 

We invite you to visit our website for more updates on this and all of our current projects.


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In April 3 Generations was honored to be part of Global Giving’s Climate Justice Initiative. This effort, centered around Earth Day,  galvanized our community to focus on environmental justice and we were overwhelmed by the response. This was a massively successful campaign for us and are deeply grateful to our incredible donors and to the team at Global Giving for their leadership.

Our project began with our feature film A Different American Dream, a call to action to raise awareness about the environmental and cultural crisis of big oil threatening Native lands.  This mission remains as vital as ever. Although plans to begin TC Energy’s construction of the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline were blocked last November by a judge in Montana, the company has now asked the courts to lift the current injunction so that they can immediately begin. TC Energy has indicated they will be looking at a “very ambitious 2020 construction season to make up for the lost time”. President Trump has also been trying to push it through, issuing a new permit for Keystone last month.

TC Energy is in direct violation of Native treaties and the law that requires consent from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. The “lands, water, and promises made in those treaties were paid for, literally, with the blood of Native ancestors and relatives” and we agree that the construction of this pipeline must be done in accordance with Rosebud Sioux Nation law.

At 3 Generations, we are closely monitoring this situation and continuing to raise awareness on this attack on Native lands and its people. As always, we are grateful to our Native American partners and friends for their guidance and wisdom on how to protect Mother Earth.


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3 Generations

Location: New York, NY - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @3Generations
Project Leader:
Jane Wells
New York, NY United States
$23,788 raised of $50,000 goal
169 donations
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